Corona del Mar High junior Shelby Brown is not the kind of girls' soccer player to boast about her accomplishments.
Things got a little bit testy on Twitter after the Sea Kings won two games in dramatic fashion this week. They beat Beckman, 2-1, on Tuesday after a Patriots penalty kick went over the goal on the final play of the game. Then on Thursday, they rallied to stun Northwood, 3-2, and claim their fourth straight outright Pacific Coast League title.
Some of the more vocal CdM players got into it a bit on the social media site with players from the other teams. Apparently, high school girls like to talk. Who knew?
"I didn't see all of it," Brown said. "I saw some of it. I didn't take part in it at all."
But the low-key junior midfielder is the reason why her teammates can boast about taking the crown for another year. Brown may be relatively short, at 5 feet 4, but she put CdM on her back in the latter part of league.
In the Beckman game she scored the Sea Kings' first goal, in the 58th minute off a free kick from the right side. In the Northwood game, she had a hand in all three goals, with a goal and two assists.
She assisted senior forward Miranda Stiver on CdM's first goal in the 65th minute, cutting the host Timberwolves' lead in half. Then, it was Brown's strike into the upper part of the net that tied the score at 2 in the 70th minute. In stoppage time, Brown then assisted freshman Hunter Gantos on the game-winning goal.
These were huge plays with the league title on the line. CdM (11-5-4) had to complete the stunning comeback at Northwood to claim the league crown, probably the most difficult one of the five that CdM has earned under Coach Bryan Middleton.
It's because of Brown that the Sea Kings go into next week's CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs with momentum. She missed three weeks with a concussion prior to league play, yet still has a team-best seven assists and is tied with Stiver for the team lead with five goals. She credits her first club coach with Newport Beach-based Slammers FC, Greg Baker, who only coached Brown for a little more than a year but obviously made an impression.
"[Baker] really taught me all that I know about shooting," Brown said. "You get the form down and just practice it."
And, on a CdM team that relies a substantial amount on set pieces to score goals, Brown has been delivering.
"She serves a very good soccer ball on our set pieces from free kicks 25 yards out to goal," said Middleton, who also uses Brown for all of the team's corner kicks. Against University, she scored directly on a corner kick, the ball bouncing off the goalie and in at the left post.
Brown doesn't have to be a vocal leader. Her play on the pitch says plenty. She's been there for a while, playing club with the Slammers for a decade, since she was 7 years old.
"It's one of those sports that everyone plays when they're little, and I just happened to really like it," she said. "I actually wasn't really intending on playing club so early, but my sister [Brittany] was trying out for Slammers. I wanted to go with her, and I ended up making it, so I stuck with it."
Last summer, Brown and CdM teammates Stiver, Brianna Westrup and Brynn Motal were on the Slammers Under-16 team that finished second at the Elite Club National League national championships in Virginia. Brown said that she didn't typically start on that team, but she has enjoyed taking more of a leadership role with CdM.
Her freshman year, she emerged as the season went on. She scored the game-winning goal in CdM's 2-1 second-round Division 1 playoff win at Yucaipa, taking the pass from then-senior Ally Brahs and finding the back of the net.
Last year Brown started out in the midfield, yet played most of league on defense, since Westrup and then-senior Alexa Mamatas were out with injuries. At the team banquet at the end of the year, Brown received the coach's award.
"She definitely put the team in front of herself," Middleton said.
Now Brown and fellow junior Birkley Sigband are key parts of the CdM midfield attack, following the graduation of Annie Alvarado (now playing at UCLA) and Sigband's older sister, Karsten. Junior Nicole Lloyd, sophomore Caroline Bethel and freshman Leah Givant are the other players helping out in CdM's young midfield rotation.
Brown's steady play does not go unnoticed, by her coach or her teammates. She may seem relaxed, but she also smiles a lot and has a good sense of humor.